100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in Michigan

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I introduced a resolution to recognize 2018 as the 100th Anniversary of the passage of Women’s Suffrage in the state of Michigan. The effort for women’s suffrage was a long battle fought by passionate and determined Michiganders. The 63-year effort to gain women’s suffrage in Michigan began in 1855 with a petition campaign. In 1866, Michigan's first bill to extend the right to vote to women was defeated by one vote in the Legislature. Shortly after, the Michigan State Woman Suffrage Association was formed in 1870 in Battle Creek. That same year, a women’s suffrage bill was passed by the Michigan Legislature, but vetoed by Gov. Henry Baldwin of Detroit.

The women of Genesee County were very involved in gaining women’s suffrage. In 1884, the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association was formed in Flint, and Mary Doe of Bay City served as the first president. Eva Belles of Flint also fought for the right to vote. In 1889, The Michigan Supreme Court upheld the right of Eva Belles to vote in school board elections, after she was refused that right in 1888. Belles vs. Burr was the court case that showed women deserved to have a say in their community.

The journey for women’s suffrage reached every corner of the state. Without the activism of these individuals, Michigan would not have been on the right track for women’s rights. In addition to activism, women all over Michigan were working to advance themselves, their cause and others. Women were achieving many firsts, opening small businesses, teaching at universities, becoming pilots and founding professional societies.

Michigan women played an instrumental role in achieving women’s suffrage both in Michigan and across the country. In 1918 Michigan’s voters approved a state constitutional amendment by nearly 55 percent of the vote, extending suffrage to Michigan women. The National Suffrage Amendment, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was passed by Congress on June 5, 1919. Michigan was the second state to ratify the amendment on June 10, 1919, under Gov. Albert Sleeper.

To view a complete timeline of the battle for women’s suffrage in Michigan, please visit http://www.michiganwomenshalloffame.org/womens_history_timeline1.aspx or http://lwvannarbor.org/files/timelineofwomen.pdf